Sunday, 12 April 2015

Mind the Gap - The Difference between Freedom of Expression and Freedom to Insult

The GMH March Meeting shoud have been "Mind the Gap - The Difference between Freedom of Expression and Freedom to Insult” by Anjum Anwar MBE. Unfortunately she was not able to speak due to her father being taken ill suddenly. 

Since many of those attending would not have had the opportunity to read the email forewarning of this it was decided to change the format of the meeting to one of open discussion on the same topic. And as a reference point for the discussion we would use Kenan Malik’s recent blog outlining some of the arguments against the frequently touted ‘I believe in free speech but …’ statements. The meeting thus proceeded on that basis. While there was general agreement with Kenan Malik’s arguments, on the part of most of those present, there was nevertheless a lively discussion. Vice chair Guy Otten was able to proffer the Muslim viewpoint in appropriate places and Aisha Ahmed herself an ex Muslim explained how through her own experiences of dealing with Muslim friends and family, she has observed that: many Muslims; a) are not exposed to critical thinking, b) see any sign of irreverence against the prophet, almost as a personal attack on themselves, but c) don’t wish any physical harm on the perpetrators as a result.

Questions were raised about why some Muslims see it as necessary to kill people for their disbelief, while members of other religions don’t take such a view (although during the time of the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition quite the opposite was the case). No conclusion was reached on this point. Other points discussed included the right to offend, not looking for a fight, discussing one’s views in the workplace (or not) and the need to work productively with others with differing beliefs in the workplace.  There seemed to be a general consensus at the end of the meeting that despite the speaker’s absence the meeting had been worthwhile. And it was suggested that we should repeat the session but from a non-Muslim standpoint, so involving speakers from other (perhaps extreme) religious backgrounds. 

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